A $52 million expansion and renovation of the Stanford S. Atwood Chemistry Center will begin the day after commencement on May 14 and finish in early 2015.

Largely funded by proceeds from the discovery of an antiviral HIV/AIDS drug in 1996, the project aims to foster a more collaborative and efficient atmosphere inside Atwood, according to David Lynn, the director of the Chemistry department. These modifications are all part of a long-term plan to designate Atwood-Emerson as a science commons since that area is surrounded by other science buildings, namely the Psychology and Interdisciplinary Sciences (PAIS) and Math and Science Center.

The project entails remodeling approximately 40,000 square feet of existing space in Atwood and adding an extra 70,000 square feet to the current 200,000-square foot Atwood-Emerson Hall, according to a March 26 University press release.  Sunlit foyers and glass walls will also replace the building’s concrete walls.

A five-story, glass-fronted atrium will be put in the place of the current walkway along the west side of Atwood.

On the ground floor of the atrium, Emory will build a contemporary library consisting of computer stations and conversational corners to encourage collaboration and interaction between graduate and undergraduate students.

“By vertically integrating the system … you walk into [the] chemistry library and see people doing research, and when you are doing research in that space what you see is people in the library,” Lynn said. “Then it’s completely transparent, and there’s no boundary between the way we learn and the way we educate, the way we ask questions and the way we articulate new knowledge.”

The current library inside Atwood formerly included the research labs that surround it, but in 2007 – when the Internet made many of the books in the library also accessible electronically – a renovation project condensed the library.

The newly created space allowed for the construction of communal areas where undergraduate and graduate students could interact.

The second floor of Atwood will be modernized with glass walls and hardwood floors to create space for poster presentations, seminars and guest lectures.

The tiered lecture hall in Atwood 360, which contains walls covered with asbestos, will also be replaced by a more interactive space where students can sit at round tables surrounded by huge display screens connected to computers.

This change, Lynn said, is another manifestation of the rise of the Internet.

Professors no longer need to use classrooms to teach information that is readily available online, he said; instead, these classrooms are built to foster more discussion-based learning.

“We need to use classrooms to understand the context of that information [on the Internet], for empowering people to express and articulate the new ideas in the context of the new information, and that’s things Google doesn’t help you with,” Lynn said. “That’s the way we need to optimize our space, and that’s the way we need to optimize our learning opportunities, and that’s the way we need to expand our ability to expand into spaces we don’t know – that is new knowledge.”

According to the press release, the benches in the general chemistry lab will also be remodeled, with the fume hoods becoming equipped with recording cameras that make demonstrations easier to understand.

“We will get a more beautiful building,” University Architect  Jen Fabrick said. “There will be many opportunities for collaborative efforts and more study spaces and just for more hanging out.”

College junior Erin Baker said she took four classes in the chemistry building her freshman and sophomore year, and she views the scheduled changes to soon take place as beneficial for both the department and students.

“The building was kind of dull, so I never studied there,” Baker said, adding that “people might go there for finals time since the library gets so full.”

– By Shivangi Singh 

Photo courtesy of Emory News Center

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